Lobsters and Crabs are interesting animals. They are both crustaceans and, in many ways, seem remarkably similar, yet are still two very distinctly different species. Most commonly used in cooking, crabs and lobsters are both considered delicacies, but what is it that makes them different?
The differences between Lobsters and Crabs are, in fact, numerous. There are obvious physical differences in shape and structure, and their habitats do also differ. If we look at their use in cooking, there are also further differences in taste, texture, preparation, and cost.
To fully understand and appreciate the difference between Lobster and crab, we need to have a look at what defines each crustacean and consider their differences from that deeper understanding. We will take a deeper look at what they are to how to best cook and eat them.
Are Lobster And Crab Different Species?
Yes, Lobster and crab are two different species. While they both belong to the decapod crustacean order, this has several distinctly different branches, of which, Lobster falls under the family Nephropidae and crab under the family Brachyura.
What is more, there are over 6000 species of crab and over 70 species of Lobster, so while we can make some generalizations with regards to their differences, it should be kept in mind that there are sometimes the odd few that don’t conform to the general understanding of these animals and will always stand out as exceptions to the rule.
Physical Differences Between A Lobster And A Crab
Anyone who has seen a crab and a lobster will know that they look different. But what are those differences? Below we list and elaborate on the physical differences between Lobster and crab.
- Body shape
- Overall size
- Legs and claws
Lobsters and crabs have very different body shapes. Crabs are more compact, being almost entirely made up of their thorax, along with a very short abdomen. Lobsters have a more obviously defined cephalothorax (combined head and thorax) and abdomen, which many may confuse for a tail.
The abdomen of the crab is very short and folded under the thorax to the point where it is practically invisible, giving the appearance of a crab having only a thorax as well as giving them a predominantly round shape. Lobsters have an elongated muscular abdomen leading them to a longer, tubular shape.
Lobsters are more commonly known to be larger than crabs. A fully grown lobster will generally reach a weight of 2.2 to 15 pounds, while a crab will generally only reach a weight of 11 pounds. General lobster size is about 20 inches in length, while for a crab, it is 15 inches in diameter.
It is important to remember that these measurements are general and that many species do exist, particularly crabs. The American Lobster can weigh 44 pounds and is in excess of 25 inches in length, and the Alaskan King Crab weighs around 28 pounds and can have legs over 5 feet in length, which makes it a very large crab.
Legs And Claws
One of the pronounced differences between Lobsters and crab is their legs and claws. While both species have 5 pairs of legs, there are big differences in how these legs have developed.
Crabs have 4 pairs of legs, and their first pair comes with claws. Their legs will be longer can those of a lobster. Some crabs will have two evenly sized pincers, while other species may have one very large pincer and one much smaller one.
A lobster’s first pair of legs is a very large pair of claws followed by two smaller pairs of pincers and, lastly, 2 pairs of legs. Lobster legs are shorter and smaller than those of crabs, except for their primary pincer set, which is much larger.
While color throughout all lobster species is not completely uniform, Lobster will generally be a darker color of blue or greenish-brown. They are this color to blend into their surroundings on the seafloor. Conversely, the crab can come in various colors, from dull brown and grey to bright red, orange, and blue.
Both Lobster and crab have blue blood, which is this color due to the hemocyanin, which contains copper. Of all the crab species, Horseshoe crabs have been around since the dinosaurs, making them one of the oldest crab species. Horseshoe crabs have their blood harvested to test vaccines as their blood can be used to detect bacteria.
Antennae And Eyes
Crabs do not have antennae, and they use their large compound eyes to navigate their way around their environment and to look out for danger and food. Crab vision is much better than that of a lobster.
Lobsters live in murkier areas of the ocean where there is not often as much light. Because of this, they do not require particularly good eyesight and have a pair of long antennas which assist them in sensing the world around them.
Difference In Lifespan Between Lobster And Crab
Lobsters and crabs have different lifespans. Lobsters can live from 5 to 45 years, while some crab species can live to over 100 years in age. Lobsters don’t live as long as they use a lot of energy during their molts which is when they shed their old exoskeletons to grow. The shedding and regrowth of a new exoskeleton require a lot of energy which leads to death.
Difference In Habitats Between Lobster and Crab
Both Lobster and crab are predominantly aquatic species. Lobsters are found in salt water. Crab, however, can be found both in salt water and fresh water, and there are also terrestrial species that are very much at home on land, although they need to get to water sources to release their eggs.
Lobsters will be found on the seafloor or in rocky crevices in every ocean on the planet. Crab, too, can be found throughout the world’s oceans and in rivers, streams, dams, and lakes. Crabs are mostly found in and around coastal reefs and on the coast, although some species have been found in the depths of the ocean as well.
Do Lobster And Crab Have The Same Social Habits
One would think that these species would be quite similar in their social habits, but they are not. Lobsters are quite anti-social and will live on their own. They do not form communities and will remain alone.
Crabs have a much more complex social system. They do live in communities but can be highly aggressive towards each other, particularly males who will fight over females. A crab will also fight over food and shelter.
Crabs will, however, work together to signal danger to others within their communities and have been known to work together to find food and sheltered areas for their eggs.
Differences In How Lobster And Crabs Move
Most people will be aware of how crabs scuttle back and forth in sideways motions. However, they can also walk forwards and backward as well.
Lobsters can only walk forwards and backward, although they can also ‘swim’ by curling their abdomens in and out, thrusting themselves backward. This movement can be surprisingly fast and is mostly used when fleeing predators.
Difference In Diet Between Lobster And Crab
Both Lobster and crab are omnivorous. Crabs will eat algae, mollusks, fungi, and animal matter. They are more predominantly scavengers. Lobsters will also scavenge but will also hunt small fish and worms. They eat various plant life and will eat their molted exoskeletons as well.
Both Lobster and crab will often be found on carcasses of dead fish or animals that have found their way into the ocean or onto the ocean floor. In this way, they are much like the vultures of the sea.
There have been instances of cannibalism amongst lobsters kept in captivity.
Difference Between Lobster And Crab Commercially
Humans have been eating Lobster and crab for millennia, and there is ample evidence of both species being an integral part of the human diet, particularly amongst coastal populations since prehistory.
Both Lobster and crab are used in a variety of cuisine throughout the world and are considered commercially important to the food industry.
The Lobster was initially a low-class food option and served up to prison inmates. During the course of the 1800s and into the 1900s, the popularity of Lobster grew, and today, it is considered to be a luxury food.
Lobster Vs. Crab: Difference In Cost
While neither Lobster nor crab is considered cheap meat, with both being considered to be of the more expensive seafood available, Lobster is considered to be the more luxurious and, as such, the pricier of the two.
Lobster is currently retailing at around $8.22 a pound after a massive price drop from a large price increase at the beginning of the year. Crab is currently retailing at $5.22 a pound.
Pricing of Lobster is, however, not a straightforward matter and will depend on a number of factors. Lobsters will have different values depending on their condition with regard to where they are in their molt cycles. Soft-shelled Lobsters, so-called as they have just shed their hard are a lot more sensitive, so they won’t survive long journeys making them only available in their immediate surroundings in coastal areas.
Solid and hard-shelled Lobsters, being further along in the molting process, are more hardy and will survive longer distances, but this will also make them more expensive. Hard-shelled Lobster is the most expensive as their hard shells mean that they can survive for longer and thus can be exported around the world.
Lobster Vs. Crab: Difference In Taste
As both Lobster and crab are crustaceans, one would expect them to taste similar, if not the same. So what are the taste differences between Lobster and crab? Crab meat has a sweeter but fishier taste. Lobster has a faint sweet seafood taste, with the sweetness being dependent on at what point the Lobster is with regards to its shell.
Soft-shell lobster is generally much sweeter lobster meat but, as mentioned previously, is limited to coastal areas.
The meat of lobster claws and legs is considered to be the sweetest and most succulent. The abdominal meat is a bit tougher. Crab claws and legs are considered to be the best parts of the crab.
King crab meat does fetch much higher prices as these are very large crabs, and their legs can provide large quantities of high-quality crab meat, often providing more meat than a large lobster.
Lobster Vs. Crab: Difference In Texture
Lobster meat and crab meat are somewhat different in texture, and Lobster is harder, firmer meat than crab. However, often the texture can also be highly dependent on how the meat is cooked.
Crab meat is a lot softer and more succulent but also flakier than lobster meat.
Lobster Vs. Crab: Difference In Cooking
If Lobster and crab are different in taste and texture, it surely goes that there must be different ways to cook them.
Crab meat is generally extracted from the shell and then cooked. It is delicate meat that will be predominantly boiled or steamed for optimal flavor. Crab meat is central to a number of dishes around the world and forms the base of bisque. Crab meat is used along with numerous spices to make a variety of crab curries and masalas. Crab cakes are a popular meal in the US.
Crab can also be boiled or barbequed and eaten straight from the shell, often accompanied by numerous sauces and condiments to enhance and complement the crab meat flavor.
Lobster meat will firstly be cooked via boiling or steaming the whole Lobster alive. Thereafter the meat will be extracted and combined with various ingredients to create a number of dishes. Lobster Thermidor is a popular dish, as is lobster bisque.
Lobster is also often dipped in butter which enhances the overall sweetness of the meat and helps to fully develop the flavor.
Neither Lobster nor crab is eaten by those practicing Islam and Judaism due to the meat being considered unclean as both Lobster and crab are crustaceans.
While both Lobster and crab are crustaceans and have similar flavors when cooked, they are vastly different animals. From different sizes, shapes, and weights to different colors, behavior, and habitat, Lobster and crab are very much not the same.
Lobsters have become the epitome of luxury food and can command much higher prices per pound than crabs can do. Lobster has firmer but flavorful meat, while the crab is fishier in taste but sweeter and flakier in texture.